Khmelnytskyi (Proskurov, Proskuriv) | Khmelnytskyi

Apprentices pose at workbenches and sewing machines in a tailors’ shop: (right) a man with measuring tape around his neck. (Stamped on back in Yiddish) "... Relief Society." 1920s © From the Archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research View of a cobblestone street lined with low buildings: passersby walk on sidewalks, (center) a young man on a bicycle, and (back) a church.1920s-1930s © From the Archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research / / Maria V., born in 1929: “All of the Jews were confined in the camp located on the former grounds of the kolkhoz. There were several buildings, including a granary, stables, and brickyard.” © Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum Yahad’s team during an interview. © Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum Anna Z., born in 1929, "Back then I was living in the hamlet of Leznevo, where a camp for Jews from Khmelnytskyi and the surrounding villagers were confined in the former kolkhoz buildings.  ©Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum “There were two Jews at the head, who pulled, and others pushed from behind. It was very difficult because  they had to climb the slope.”© Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum Lidia K., born in 1930. Her father was requisitioned by local police to fill in the pit after the execution. © Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum Yahad’s team during an interview. © Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum The location of the execution site close to the forest. Today there is a memorial at this site. © Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum The well, located in the forest, from where the Jewish inmates of the camp were forced to bring water. © Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum The location of the execution site close to the forest. Today there is a memorial at this site. © Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum The location of one of the camps, on the grounds of the former kolkhoz in the village of Leznevo. © Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum The grounds of the former kolkhoz in the village of Leznevo where the camp for the Jews was created. There were several buildings, including brickyard, stables, and a granary. © Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum The memorial at the second execution site. © Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews in Proskurov

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Ravine (1); Dump pits behind the slaughter house(2)
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
Between 9,500 to more than 12,000

Witness interview

Lidia L., born in 1930: « YIU: Was your father requisitioned to fill in the pit once or several times?
W: Many men were requisitioned for that besides my father. They were requisitioned for work as if it was their duty. Back then, my father worked at the stables as a groomer. The local men were taken by force to fill in the pits. Local women were taken as well. They requisitioned anyone they found.
YIU: Was he taken once or several times?
W: I don’t know. As well as I can remember he was taken only once. The shootings didn’t last long. All of the Jews were shot in two or three days. Only one Jewish woman survived.
YIU: Who was your father was requisitioned by?
W: A policeman.
YIU: How he was requisitioned? Did the policeman come to your house to take him?
W: Every man, knowing that there weren’t that many, was requisitioned. They came saying: “Hey, Korney, let’s go, you need to go to work! Then, a brigade leader came and took him. Was it Rosola the brigade leader back then?
Local man: Yes.” (Witness n°591, interviewed in Khmelnytskyi, on May 22, 2008)

Soviet archives

“I remember it happened in the city of Proskurov, on Kamenetskaya Street, in the fall of 1941. During a lunch break, while I was going home to eat with my neighbor, we saw with our own eyes a large group of about 800-850 people being taken to be shot to death. They walked along Kamenetskaya Street toward the village of Ruzhichnoye. Among them, there were men, women, old people, and little children, and even many women holding nursing infants in their arms. The people were crying, screaming, pleading for help; in response, the policemen were beating them brutally. The people were barefoot, undressed, and they were beaten until they lost consciousness.” [Deposition given by Nikolai Mironov to the Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK), on June 16, 1944; GARF 7021-64-813]

German archives

"We lived on Karl Marx street in our own house along with other Jews and Christians. There was an order reading that all the Jews had to leave their homes and to move into a closed ghetto. Two ghettos, fenced in with barbed wire, were created for this purpose. They were located on Podkamenskaya and Podnaberezhnaya streets. Our family moved into the ghetto on Podkamenskaya street. We lived there until the first Aktion, carried out in October 1941. The Jewish ghetto inmates were subjected to perform different labor for the Germans, mostly physical and heavy work. My father was among those who were taken for forced labor every morning. Besides those who were taken for forced labor and who left in columns every morning and came back in the evening, no one else could leave the perimeter of the ghetto. The ghetto was guarded day and night by German soldiers. I don’t know which unit they belonged to. As I was a child, sometimes, in the most difficult days, I snook out of the ghetto in order to barter something and to get some food for my family.
In October 1941, I don’t remember the exact date, but it was at night, the first anti-Jewish Aktion took place. I heard Germans screaming "Juden raus" and women and children crying. The Germans started to force the Jews out of their houses. Some Jews managed to hide in the basements, attics, and in the toilets. There were rumors and we knew already what was waiting for us and that all the Jews would be killed. All of those who lived in our building, they were 21 people, managed to hide in the basement.” [Deposition of a Jewish survivor Miriam BEN-SZALOM; BArch B162-6163 (t.13) p.1]

“The Jews; including men, women, and children, were taken by two guards in groups of 50 from the camp towards the pit. Before getting inside the pit, they had to undress to their underwear. After, they had to go inside the pit one after another.
The elder Jews were taken by vehicle towards the pit. They had to undress to their underwear as well. Then, the strongest and the youngest Jews had to carry the weakest ones inside the pit. While the Jews were undressing they were guarded by two young soldiers in brown uniforms. My comrades and I thought they were RAD members [Note: Reichsarbeitsdienst: Reich Work Service]. We didn’t know those two guards, their unit wasn’t familiar to us. Although, at this time there was a RAD unit stationed in Proskurov. I stayed there for about half an hour with the mentioned above officers at a distance of about 100m from the pit. After that, I came back to our accommodations. The shooting lasted from 6am to 9pm on November 4, 1941. Apparently, on this day, all of the detainees of the camp were exterminated, because none of the workers came to work after this.” [Deposition of a 3rd Luftwaffe unit, Valentin Muhler, given on March 18, 1959; BArch B162-3511 (p.2)]

Historical note

Khmelnytskyi, known as Proskuriv before 1780 and Proskurov until 1954, is located on the Buh River, about 340 km (211 miles) southwest of Kyiv. The first record of a Jewish community dates back to 1627. By 1765 750 Jews lived in the town. In 1795 the town was absorbed by the  Russian Empire. By 1847 the Jewish community grew to 3,107 residents and in 1889 they represented 60% of the total population (11,482 Jews). The majority of Jews who lived in Proskuriv were Hassidic Jews. The majority of Jews were merchants or artisans. Some of them owned mills or factories, for example, a sugar factory was owned by Lev Mozel, an iron foundry was owned by Beirish Ashkenazi. In 1907, approximately 17,000 Jews lived in the town. There was a synagogue, seven prayer houses, 18 cheders, a Talmud Tora, a Yeshiva, and several schools for boys and girls respectively. In February 1919, as a result of a pogrom, 1,650 Jews were murdered. Under Soviet rule, the synagogue was closed and transformed into a gymnasium, all religious and cultural movements were prohibited. In 1926, some 13,500 Jews lived in the town comprising 42% of the total population. On the eve of the war, 14,518 Jews lived in the Proskurov.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Khmelnytskyi was occupied by the Germans on July 8, 1941. By that time some local Jews had managed to flee on the East, while refugees from the West arrived. According to estimates, some 10,000 -11,000 Jews remained. During the first days of the occupation, 146 communists including some who were Jews were murdered.

In September the first ghetto was created in the area of the market place, where the majority of the Jews lived. Those who lived outside of this area had to move in. The ghetto was fenced in with barbed wire and guarded by local police. The prisoners were subjected to perform different types of forced labor, such as shoveling the snow, cleaning, and clearing rubble.

The first mass execution was organized on November 4, 1941. On this day, the Jewish inmates who didn’t receive special skilled workers certificates were taken to the textile factory, where they had to hand over their documents and valuables. Then, they were taken to the execution site located behind the slaughterhouse, south of the city. Once on the site, they were forced to undress and killed in groups of 15 or 20 people. The execution was conducted by Einsatzgruppe C.

After the mass execution, the skilled workers were moved to a newly created ghetto, where the skilled workers from Chernyi Ostrov, Feshtin (today’s Gvardeiskoye), and 800 Jews from Nikolaev had been displaced. Other Jews stayed in the so-called old ghetto. Many Jews died from hunger and typhus throughout the winter.

In May 1942 a labor camp was created in the hamlet of Leznevo located 6km west of Khelnytskyi. Today, the village doesn’t exist and is part of the city. The camp was created on the grounds of the former kolkhoz and numbered 30 Jews displaced from the town’s ghetto. Shortly after, hundreds of Jews were displaced there from Zinkiv, Yarmolyntsi, Gorodok, and Chorny Ostriv. At the same time, another camp was created in the building of school n°6 where the Jews from Vinkivtsi, Manivtsi, and other surrounding villages were confined.  The Jews were working on the DG-IV construction. The Leznevo camp was liquidated on November 30, 1942, at the same time as the main ghetto. The executions lasted about a week and were conducted by SS men, Lithuanian auxiliaries, and help from the local police. There are no exact numbers of those killed during the executions in the fall of 1941 and 1942, as different sources provide different numbers. According to the Soviet commission, 8,000 victims were murdered in the ravine, located 2km south of Khmelnytsky. Another 5,300 were shot in two dump pits, and 2,700 more in the 36 pits located in that same area. Among those victims, there were thousands of prisoners of war who were exterminated by the Germans as well.

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